Fundamentals of convergence and innovation

Part of the Contributions to Management Science book series (MANAGEMENT SC.)


Our current perception on technological convergence has been associated with the developments in the emergent ICT industry since the introduction of personal computers and the implied digitalization of media. In literature, this perception stems from the late 1970s,1 when the emergent trend was already articulated through a Science article by Farber and Baran (1977) and identified as the convergence of computing and telecommunications systems.2 Also, Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and chairman of MIT Media Lab, brought convergence onto the agenda in 1978 by illustrating a phenomenon through three overlapping circles moving together. These circles represented the three industries—computing, publishing and printing, as well as broadcasting and film. However, it seems that Negroponte missed the influence of the telecommunications industry at this stage (Brand, 1987). Also at that time, another similar visionary foresight on increasingly merging technologies within ICT was made in the concept of a ‘wired society’ (Martin, 1978), although the term convergence was not explicitly used. Similarly, an emerging overlap between telecom and datacom networks was addressed by a research project conducted at Harvard University in the mid-1970s, using the title ‘Information Technologies and Public Policy’, and introducing the terminology of ‘compunications’,3 however, without further envisioning the impacts of a full convergence between these industry sectors (Lind, 2004; Longstaff, 2001; Oettinger, Berman, and Read, 1977).


Critical Success Factor Service Production System Technological Convergence Disruptive Technology Dominant Design 
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  1. 1.
    A broad overview on the usage of the convergence term in an early-ICT context is given by Lind (2004)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Whereas Farber and Baran (1977) manage to identify the trends and to roughly predict implications in terms of future applications, they still conclude their discussion with a set of major problems to be solved prior to a common breakthrough. When considering the first three of the mentioned seven issues, one can today make the observation that, interestingly, all these mentioned issues turned out to become solved by the advent of the Internet: “(1) The public availability of socially useful computer communications services is and has been held back by legal battles that are now under way between the potential suppliers. (2) No simple resolution of these issues in the near future seems likely in view of the past conceptual separation of computers and communications doctrines. (3) The current policy is to determine whether the nation shall or shall not have certain computer communications services, by the adversary process. In this process, often only the voices of the loudest adversary suppliers are heard.” (Farber and Baran, 1977, p. 1169)Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Throughout history, the term innovation has gradually evolved from a rather narrowly focused, technical term to a more open, commercially and socially related construct (cf. Barnett, 1953; Drucker, 1985; Fahrni, 2001a,b; Foster, 1986; Marquis, 1969; Marxt and Hacklin, 2005; Pavitt, 1980; Schmookler, 1966; Schumpeter, 1912). In particular, it is chosen to use the term for denoting the “process that begins with an invention, proceeds with the development of the invention, and results in the introduction of a new product, process or service to the marketplace” (Edwards and Gordon, 1984, p. 1). Already Schumpeter (1939) emphasized the importance of clearly differentiating between invention and innovation, which are “economically and sociologically two entirely different things” (p. 85).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    In a previous paper, Lind (2004, p. 1) introduces a working definition of convergence as “merging of hitherto separated markets, removing entry barriers across industry boundaries”. In a later paper, however, he introduces the rather abstract definition, i.e., “a market/industry definition generated by technological change” (Lind, 2005, p. 1).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Translated from German; original definition: “Prozess der Interaktion zwischen Unternehmensumwelt bzw. Wettbewerbsstruktur und Unternehmensstrategie, der zur strukturellen Verbindung bislang getrennter Märkte führt” (Thielmann, 2000, p. 9).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Cf. Bane, Bradley, and Collis (1997); Barnes (2002); Bourreau and Gensollen (2004); Farber and Baran (1977); Harrison and Hearnden (1999); Messerschmitt (1996a,b); Yoffie (1997)Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    The evaluation model introduced by Baer (2004) is based on 11 parameters, each of which can be grouped into the categories of convergence relevant and development specific criteria. The convergence relevant criteria consist of: convergence intensity with regard to market focus of both co-operation and branch affinity; goal formulation and growth perspective of co-operation; changes of co-operation developments in the time; and coverage degree within the value chain. The development specific criteria are: degree of initiative; geographic focus; number of partners; power relations; functional focus; and formalization degree of co-operations.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    For example, Backholm and Hacklin (2002); Borés et al. (2003); Duysters and Hagedoorn (1998); Götte (2003); Hacklin and Marxt (2003); Kaluza et al. (1998); Kaluza, Blecker, and Bischof (1999); Messerschmitt (1996a); Pennings and Puranam (2001); Steinbock (2003); Wind, Mahajan, and Gunther (2002); Wirtz (1999); Yoffie (1997).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    In this context, convergence in substitutes, or competitive convergence, can be understood as “1 + 1 = 1”, whereas complementary convergence has the effect of “1 + 1 = 3” (Dowling et al., 1998, p. 32).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Cf. Afuah and Tucci (2003); Christensen (1997); Christensen and Rosenbloom (1995); Danneels (2004); Foster (1986); Henderson and Clark (1990)Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Cf. Henderson and Clark (1990); Kassicieh, Walsh, Cummings, McWhorter, Romig, and Williams (2002a); Kassicieh, Kirchhoff, Walsh, and McWhorter (2002b); King and Tucci (2002); Kirchhoff, Kassicieh, and Walsh (2002); Tripsas (1997); Walsh, Kirchhoff, and Newbert (2002)Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Cf. Chandler (1997); Danneels (2004); Kapoor (2004); Kostoff et al. (2004); Lei (2000); Linton (2002); Markides and Williamson (1996); Prahalad (1998); Rosenberg (1963); Vanhaverbeke and Kirschbaum (2003); Yoffie (1996)Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    These results have been reported in Hacklin et al. (2004a, 2005b) and are partly based on earlier work reported in Bally (2005a,b); Mazza (2003); Streun (2003); Vogelsang (2004); Weigel (2003); Wirth (2004); Wunderlin (2004). See also section 1.4.3.Google Scholar

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